I grew up around Chicago, and fall is pretty nice there. You know, leaves change color and the air gets a little chillier. As Tom Hanks once said in a certain adorable, underrated movie: “It makes me wanna buy school supplies”.
But fall in the Colorado Rockies is a level up. The dry air and high altitude mean that sunshine becomes a tangible force on your skin. You can feel summer and winter warring over each moment, and either one could win out in any given minute (literally, it could become a winter snowstorm like that).
Fall in the Rockies will write little nature songs for you. The elk start bugling and aspens coat the mountains in fluttering rivers of yellow leaves.
The Rockies are well past that time for this year, but since we’re now living in the Pacific Northwest I find myself comparing here to Colorado a lot. As you can imagine, there are plenty of differences to ponder… just in climate alone. But fall specifically has been so dramatically different that it’s honestly kind of a shock to the system.
In the mountains of Colorado, we’d see fall in early September. It was brief and stunning, the broad washes of yellow Aspens so foreign to a midwesterner like me even after a decade of living there.
In the foothills of Colorado, you’d get a bit longer. But inevitably fall would bring gusting winds pushing out from the mountains, dramatically ripping leaves off of trees en masse, and so it wasn’t unusual to start one day feeling like you were in an autumn fairytale and the next like you had just fast forwarded into early winter.
But as short as the idyllic phase of fall sometimes felt in the foothills, there’s something extra special about that perfect weekend of prime color in the Rockies. Maybe it’s that you have to work for it — you have to ask around, monitor conditions to be sure you’re not too early, not too late. Maybe it’s because there are so many of the same trees and so they change all in one go.
In Colorado, it seemed like fall was a brief but spectacular yellow explosion. It was dramatic, warm sunshine with gentle cool-breeze goosebumps and walls of wind with unforecasted snowstorms.
Here in Oregon, fall as been months of slowly morphing colors. Even now, so many leaves are holding on, refusing to acknowledge the holiday lights going up around the neighborhood that make something here, in my mind, definitively in the wrong season. It’s lovely and odd. Plus the lawns are lush and there are flowers still in bloom… what is this place?
My brain hasn’t exactly acclimated yet. So, let’s look at some more photos of a place I know.
Funny how so many different places can become home.
And this drive through the Rockies of course had to include a quick stop at Lily Lake just outside of Estes Park. This shot was taken just short ways from where we held our wedding ceremony, so we had to take the chance to bring our little fluff.
If I’m remembering correctly, a snow storm blew through within a day or two of our little sun-washed drive so we just squeaked into that little window.
So if you get lucky enough to make this one happen, just remember to take a second to really feel that intense, high altitude sunshine (literally a second, because you’ll burn so freaking fast)… and take a break from the heavy tourist areas because you’re in for something pretty special.